Ever since I started this blog, I’ve spent a little time each day reading other blogs. It’s what bloggers do. I’ve found some great ones on all kinds of subjects, but I spend most of my time searching for, and reading, blogs about being middle aged. And I’ve noticed that there is a common theme among many of the blogs that focus on middle age. Mixed in among the universal complaints of fading eyesight, empty nests, aging parents and way too much sagging skin, there is also a whole lot of hope.
Over and over, I read about people optimistically entering a new phase of their life, shedding the emotional baggage that has been holding them back and finally moving toward the life they really want to live. The authors are a varied group: people launching new businesses, the newly divorced, those in the “sandwich generation,” recent empty-nesters, new grandparents, people who were moving across country or even to a whole new country. But their perspective is the same: they feel they are moving, tentatively but hopefully, toward a better future.
As we all know, there are definite disadvantages to being middle aged, and often there is a nagging sense of loss as our family dynamics change and our bodies begin their inevitable decline. But what these blogs made so very clear was that the negative aspects of middle age are far from the whole story. Many of us are using this time of our lives to rethink our priorities, to listen to that inner voice that tells us who we really are and what we really want to do, and to finally find the courage to chase our most cherished dreams.
I have always known that I like to write. As a child, I remember sitting at my father’s desk and using his old manual typewriter to write mystery books, even though I never made it much past the second chapter. And it was no accident that I majored in English in college, and spent many years dabbling in a free-lance writing career. But it still took me decades to accept the fact that writing is a fundamental part of who I am, and that I will never feel completely fulfilled when I am not writing. That clarity was a gift of middle age.
Yes, middle age is a time when we have accumulated some losses, and we do grieve for what, and whom, we have lost. But it is also a time when we can look hopefully toward our future with a willingness to try new things, a more compassionate and forgiving outlook, and, most important of all, a much stronger sense of self than we have ever had before. We are old enough to have learned a whole lot of life’s lessons, but also young enough to see that there is still a bright horizon ahead. And that’s more than enough reason to be hopeful.